I thought by leaving before daylight, that I would miss the worst of the wind and rain. I was mistaken. California’s latest deluge – round five – poured down on me as I hurried past wind battered trees and leaning power poles. Weekends bring early morning puppy duty and Mama Snickerdoodle and her rapidly growing brood were waiting. Adorable, right?
Unless you are the mom they constantly seek out!
Eyes and ears are open now and the kids are cruising everywhere. It will be at least two weeks before the yard drains enough to allow them outside. Right now, they would be swimming. Just imagine the poop show we’re in for!
Mother Nature has thrown everything at us…water, wind, hail, and snow in the mountains. We have been incredibly fortunate here compared to the rest of the state. At the low-lying rescue, there is water everywhere, but our buildings have stayed mostly dry. Our pond has become a lake. The chair in this photo is actually attached to a dock. It’s under there somewhere.
We have lost a number of trees, the saddest of which is this huge pine.
And the dogs return a muddy mess every time they go out. They much prefer the puddles and mud to being cooped up all day, but the laundry and baths…oh my!
South of our home, a levee failed in numerous places flooding out three small towns. But most of our region has been spared – especially compared to those on the coast. Receiving three times our rainfall, they are underwater and losing homes and roads to mudslides. We wished for rain. We got it.
The historic park near us has taken a pounding. William Land Park was established more than one hundred years ago. The 238 acre parcel was originally used as “flood spill” – a polite name for sewage overflow. Maybe that’s why the trees grew so well there. These storms have taken a toll. More than 50 trees have been toppled in the park – many of them a century old. Across the city, the estimate is more than 1,000 – dropped to the ground in high winds and saturated soil that is simply too much for the roots to hold on after three years of drought.
It will take months to clear all, leaving a changed landscape.
The good news for our region is that Folsom Lake – our reservoir – has quickly refilled. Our system of improved levees, weirs, and the Yolo Bypass have held…and thanks to the dedicated crews that walk and inspect them every day. The mountains are snow-capped – potentially signaling a decent snow melt this year. The agricultural land around our rescue will absorb this standing water, sending it back to the aquifer…which means hope for the Memorial Garden this summer. And the local egrets are happy! Take your blessings where you can find them.
The unexpected strength and resolve of a country attacked by its hostile neighbor. The awakening of some that they have been had and used – and that the man behind the curtain is no wizard at all but a propped-up clown. Torrential rains and flooding gives rise to the possible retreat of three-year drought.
And an Ohio puppy mill shuttered by family misfortune means freedom and new lives for 45 dogs. If you follow us on social media, you’ve read the story. But here it is for the rest of you.
In December, Homeward Bound was part of a coordinated rescue of 30 dogs – 12 of them pregnant – and 15 puppies. Their freedom rides were courtesy of Golden and Labrador rescues across the country. The request to accommodate a very expectant girl came from our rescue partner in Oregon who took a pregnant mom themselves. Her litter of nine is being hand-fed around the clock as the mother required emergency surgery.
Traveling cross country just before a record cold snap, the trip was harrowing for our mom. A beautiful Goldendoodle, she spent her entire four years of life producing puppies in an Ohio puppy mill.
She arrived at dawn on December 22nd, stressed and terrified – unsure what to make of her indoor accommodations. Warmth, heaping bowls of food, clean water, and soft blankets…these were all new to her. She didn’t have a name, so we chose something appropriate for her breed and the season. We named her Snickerdoodle.
Her labor began the next afternoon. Six hours in, we felt sure the babies’ arrival would not be until morning. But as soon as she had a moment’s privacy, the process began. Snickerdoodle was obviously accustomed to giving birth alone. Life in a puppy mill is a lonely existence.
Monitoring her on a remote camera, our president and birthing mom turned right around and returned to be by her side. By 1AM, she had delivered seven beautiful puppies. Waiting another hour, she felt safe that mom was done. However, when I arrived early the next morning, I found nine puppies. I cleaned and fed her and left her room for about an hour. Upon my return, I counted again: 12! Then I literally caught the last, number 13.
An experienced mom, only the last little one needed some assistance – if only because it was so hard for mom to reach over the other 12. Exhausted, she ate, drank, and slept while the newborn babies created a constant chorus maneuvering for a suckling turn. They were born into a thick blanket of fog.
Two very tiny ones struggled and came home with me for every two-hour feedings. Heartbreakingly, I could not save them. Adversity still followed the others when record rain and hurricane force winds knocked out power forcing their overnight evacuation to our vet clinic that runs, with the kennel, on generator. But mom and the 11 thrive.
A few days later, two more of the breeder girls also came our way. There will be no more litters for these three moms. Each will be carefully placed in loving homes to live long, spoiled lives.
Today, I ordered Dahlias for the 2023 garden. I had about given up on these old-fashioned beauties; not native or usual in our typically drought-tolerant Memorial Garden – but they had always been a special blooming gem in the early years of the garden. Between increasing temperatures and the blazing sun of our Sacramento Valley, the army of snails that quickly gobble up tasty first cotyledon leaves, and failed attempts to overwinter the tubers in our climate, I was sure it was time to throw in the trowel. Then I came across a series of articles about starting Dahlias in pots.
In our region, Dahlias ship in late February. By mid-March last year, I had 20 potted in my backyard where I could keep a close watch out for snails, moisture and drainage needs. By the first week of April, all had sprouted. I began succession planting in mid-April after they grew mature leaves less appealing to the voracious snails. Their new home is in the filtered shade of a tree where they receive full sun from sunrise until midday but are well protected from the blazing afternoon sky. I fed them monthly with 10/10/10 organic fertilizer and they get admitted special treatment with an extra drink when the weather turns too hot. The result: they bloomed all summer and into November except for ungodly heat waves in August and September.
A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.
This week, we celebrated the move of our last three Parvo litter puppies to foster. It is the next-to-last step on their journey to forever homes.
It’s the kind of victory that will sustain us for a long time. Hopefully, we will see them all again in a year for a happy reunion.
While we cared for them, we also welcomed a litter of five Golden pups from a Midwest puppy mill supposedly going out of business. Thankfully, they were all relatively healthy and able to be adopted within a couple of weeks. Another triumph.
Sadly, efforts to secure the breeding pair failed. A great loss. With the economy suffering, we are seeing puppy mills and backyard breeders shedding their puppies at rates not seen since the 2008 recession. Unfortunately, these operations are too easily restarted when the breeding dogs are held.
A few triumphs…set against a series of losses thanks to a network of fellow rescuers who persevere.
Stop the purchase of puppies from puppy mills, the retail stores they sell to, and disreputable breeders, and we can put them all out of business for good. It’s as simple as that.Spread the word.
When the forecast calls for rain in our parched Northern California – I am always a believer. This weekend – it did not disappoint. You can almost hear the trees and plants breathing in the good soak.
However, when it comes to rescue, I have learned to adopt a healthy bit of skepticism – if only to prepare my heart.
Recently, one of our volunteers connected with a woman looking to “rehome” Golden Retriever puppies on Craigslist. In fact, she of course meant to sell them claiming they were an “oops” litter. Our volunteer was surprised to hear back from the woman several weeks later, asking to surrender the pups…ten in total. It was suspicious that they had gone unsold, but, of course, we said ‘yes.’
I was not there the day they were delivered. The photo seemed to reflect that they were bright and alert. Then someone mentioned that one was worrisomely lethargic. My mind immediately went to Parvo. I’ve been through it before.
We isolated them as we do all puppies. My fear was confirmed the next morning when one puppy was rushed to the vet. The heartbreaking decision was made to let her go. In the final stages, Parvo is very painful and it was the kindest thing. The next day – two more were lost.
Parvo is deadly to puppies. Protection requires four rounds of vaccinations which is why we always caution that puppies cannot go to public places – even sidewalks – until fully vaccinated. The mortality rate for puppies is a devastating 80%.
Strict isolation protocols were put in place with a tiny team to watch over the others. We were determined to save the remaining seven. Under guidance from our dedicated vet, we established two isolation areas – one for those showing symptoms (lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea among them) – and a separate space for those without. Our president personally took all shifts for the three in greatest danger – administering their care and watchfully waiting. The other four progressed well, learning what regular access to food meant and quickly gaining weight.
When it was safe, we sent the four to foster and celebrated the day when the three could be released from their separate isolation. They are now on the rebound.
This is where my skepticism creeps in. We try to give people the benefit of the doubt and to be genuinely grateful for the chance to help, but I suspect that the surrenderer knew what she delivered to us. Honesty might have helped us save more.
We offered to spay and neuter her dogs – something she said she wanted to do but could not afford. We sent her education about Parvo and why future litters were likely to suffer the same fate. We never heard back. After a Parvo litter, homes and yards cannot be used for up to a year after complete disinfecting or removal of surfaces. I grieve for her next litter – those that will suffer the same fate and those that go to unsuspecting families destined for heartbreak.
I have no issue with responsible breeders who truly care for their dogs, puppies, and the families that purchase them. But please help spread the word about how to identify them versus backyard or puppy mill breeders who create tragedies like this. This is a resource you can share.
Before I disappeared for nearly a year, I wrote about our foster Ahsoka. The darling Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenees pup is now the giant Lucy who lives a spoiled and happy life with her mom, Susan. Lucy comes back to visit occasionally and has regular play dates with our foster puppies and their shared companion – Skye, our two-year-old boy.
Susan joined our puppy foster team last February by volunteering to foster an entire litter of German Shepherd puppies and their momma, Annie. She is an excellent puppy mama.
In my absence, I did not chronicle this year’s foster puppies. That weighs on me. I love remembering them here. So let’s catch up.
Roxy’s backyard breeder has decided to take advantage of our location. A posted sign offering Golden Retriever puppies has been permanently affixed near our rescue and he routinely sells puppies out of the back of his truck. The man that purchased her made an impulse buy and then surrendered her to us a couple of weeks later. It seems the family was not on board. His English was limited; all he wrote on the surrender contract was “I love her.” It was easy to understand why.
This incredibly gentle girl, now named Indy, found her home with a great family and four young children.
Hank was purchased from a backyard breeder and surrendered shortly after. This giant puppy, nicknamed Hank the Tank, was overwhelming the family cats and small dog with his puppy exuberance and strength.
He found the perfect home with an active couple living at the lake and in the snow. His giant head and drooping eyes have finally grown into his massive body but along with his rapid growth came a devastating diagnosis of cancer – rare at such a young age.
Thankfully, his devoted parents are seeing him through. After surgery and radiation, he is on the home stretch of chemo treatment with a positive prognosis. Paws crossed. He is in my prayers daily.
Mickey was found stray at three months of age traveling with an unrelated Golden. The shelter sent a photo and said he was a Doodle. Note to self: always ask for a photo to scale. Not that I regret the masquerade for one minute!
Affectionate and starved for people attention, this little Terrier mix was not our typical foster, but the golden heart of his traveling companion definitely wore off on him. He fit right in with our pack until he found his forever home with a mom who is always by his side.
Comet came to stay with us to recover from desperately needed FHO (femoral head ostectomy) surgery – something we had been through with our own boy, Skye.
He was in a very big hurry to run, jump and play but first he needed to rebuild muscle through swimming, gradual exercise, and, eventually, controlled play with our dogs. When he started doing zoomie circles in his pen at 5:30 in the morning, we knew he was ready for home.
He is living his best life with his new family at the lake where he puts all those swimming exercises to regular use.
“No one wants that puppy. Give me a hundred bucks and get her out of here.” Found sitting in a crate in her own filth at a puppy mill in the Midwest, Willow was five months old and not destined for good things. The Good Samaritan that found her drove her across the country to California. Willow was completely shut down – frozen at human touch. The woman, realizing she was in over her head, surrendered her to us. I carried her off the transport, into my car, and into our home where she was greeted by our three Goldens. It was exactly what she needed. Within a couple of days, all that fear vanished.
We quickly learned why “no one wants that puppy.” Willow has epilepsy. A low dose of medication has kept the seizures at bay, and she found the perfect home with a woman whose own mother also had seizures. She could not be more loved.
Harley arrived with a heart condition: SAS (subvalvular aortic stenosis) with a serious grade. But you would never know it by the way he runs and plays.
Clinical studies show that the invasive surgery some recommend has no impact on a dog’s long-term outcome. Instead, he will be on a beta-blocker for life. How long will his life be? No one knows. Like those athletes you hear about, his heart may just stop someday. Or – like some dogs we have known – he could live to be 10 with good quality care. The most important thing is a life well-lived, full of fun, adventures, and love. We found that for him.
Mini-Murphy was part of an “unplanned litter” between a Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever/Poodle) and Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever/Poodle). People…there is nothing “unplanned” about an unspayed female dog and an unneutered male dog living together. He was purchased by an older couple (the husband was 81) who quickly realized their decision to bring home a puppy had been directed by their hearts, not their heads. They stated that Murphy is a smart puppy with a good temperament…does normal puppy things…and is delightful and deserves a family that can physically interact with him…”he is the epitome of a joyful, bright, and totally loveable puppy.” They were right about that.
He lives with two active children so they can all get their zoomies out together.
Milo, my foster shadow, was purchased as a gift for a family with six children ages toddler to 16…and another on the way. Needless to say, he spent most of his time in a crate and went outside only on a leash. They knew he deserved better. Despite this less-than-ideal beginning, he proved to be a very well-adjusted puppy who loves dogs, cats, and humans of all ages.
A cuddler who followed me everywhere I went, Milo was especially hard to say goodbye to. He went home with a family and their dog whose hearts needed mending from the loss of another companion. “Now I have two shadows” his new mom wrote. He is where he belongs.
It is always hard to say goodbye to our foster pups – but rewarding to see the joy they bring to others.
So, with apologies to all my 2022 foster kids, we are now caught up.
A couple of weeks ago, I felt encouraged that the collective “we” had finally awoken from a bad dream. For a minute, I thought that common sense and decency had finally prevailed over lies driven by greed, power, and ego. I had hope…something that has been in short supply these past two years and has made it impossible for me to write. It was short-lived.
If the message that was clearly sent was to eschew extremes on either side in favor of compromise and reason, it has gone unheard. The usual suspects are up to their usual tactics while war and climate change rage – threatening to upend our very existence.
Our battles here have seemed too small in comparison. But to those that we can help, I was recently reminded – they are not small at all.
Not to Jelly Bean, whose life was saved by a compassionate animal control officer and was transformed in our care from forgotten and discarded to health and joy.
Not to Dexter, finally freed from life on a chain only to demonstrate the unconditional love and forgiveness of a golden heart.
And not to Willow, the “damaged dog” rescued as a seizure puppy from certain death in a puppy mill to fulfill the years-long search of her new human.
“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” ~ Lady Bird Johnson
I will look for my hope among the stories of our charges and the flowers that bloom in our Memorial Garden dedicated to them. I will try to write again.
Fall just seems to have melted into winter. A month ago, the garden was in stunning bloom.
Now only a few cold hardy, fog-loving plants have found their bloom – refusing to surrender.
Maria’s garden art signals winter is upon us.
Soon, all will be quiet and grey – but spring bulbs are just a couple of months away. You can’t beat gardening in Northern California. Please pray for rain – it looks to be a long, brown summer.
Someone else bloomed today. Ahsoka was our latest foster. Someone thought they had purchased another of those pint-sized “English Cream” designer Golden Retrievers. After a few weeks of puppyhood, they surrendered with two comments:
“It’s harder than having a newborn baby.” And…”She’s growing REALLY fast.”
One: yes puppies are harder than newborn babies. Both wake in the night, but one will potty on the floor instead of diapers. And one is mobile with razor sharp puppy teeth. It will be a long time before the other is ready for its reign of terror.
As for growing REALLY fast…that might have something to do with the fact that she is mixed with Great Pyrenees! She’s a stunning beauty who will quickly grow to 70+ pounds!
She was much better off with us than in the crate they kept her in day and night. She came to stay for a couple of weeks and had her first taste of freedom. She and our Skye instantly bonded and he helped her with big dog socialization. They are BFFs.
But its best for puppies to learn from other puppies where the lessons are gentler. So newly adopted Ahsoka – now Lucy – attended her first day of puppy school today.
Shy in new situations, she hung with humans and sought out teacher for reassurance at first.
But good friends are hard to resist.
She quickly got the hang of it and was soon joined in all the fun.
It’s rare that we get to see our foster puppies grow up – but Ahsoka/Lucy was adopted by a fellow volunteer, so we – and Skye – will enjoy seeing her blossom and come into her own.
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
It has been a year since you left us. Your presence is felt as strongly today as it was then. Only now we can speak of you with a smile instead of tears.
Recently, friends and volunteers gathered to dedicate the chapel you coveted – built by your siblings – housing the ashes of dogs returned to Homeward Bound. Among them, Chelsea’s ashes – the Golden girl that inspired your vision for this very special place on earth.
We learned that you wanted the chapel placed by the pond you enjoyed in solitude as the sun set and you closed out your days of toil – physical and emotional. Your spirit is strong there. You would be so pleased with the result.
One of our guests lamented so many new faces, feeling out of place. Another noted that as a good thing. I agree. It means that we are strong and welcoming a new generation of people devoted to your vision of rescue, rehabilitation, home, and sanctuary. But we need old friends as well as new to provide perspective and context. The blood, sweat and tears that went into making this vision a reality should always be shared and remembered lest it be taken for granted.
One guest walked the property remembering the bare ground of 20 years past – recounting your vision: “Here we will house the dogs, here, a vet clinic; here, a swimming pool for rehabilitation; here, a pond; here, grassy yards to run and play; here, a place to gather and train; here, a place for puppies to grow strong; here – a memorial garden.” They strained to see it and remembered playing along – pretending to believe. And yet – here it is. All of it.
Time does not stand still, and neither have we. The dogs require it. It has not been easy, but you took care to plant good seeds. They have grown strong and taken root. Things are different. But you would be proud. We persevered. The dream lives on.
“The sap of another generation fingering through a broken tree to push fresh branches towards a further light, a different identity.” ~John Montague
The call said she was a breeder-surrendered puppy with ectopic ureters. I knew what that meant: she leaked pee.
In the past, she was the kind of puppy that Jody would take up to her house – shielding us from possible heartache if the outlook looked uncertain or grim. But Jody is gone, and an eight-week-old pee girl needs to have her bottom kept clean and dry to stave off infection. I knew that. “Where else is she going to go?” I knew the answer. She had to come home with us.
We have fostered a lot of puppies. She was too small for her age. At eight weeks, she should have been pushing 15 pounds; she weighed in at only 11. She had a bacterial and yeast infection already.
I had a dream that first night. I dreamt that she died.
I reached out and touched the hand of time and knew it was not my friend. We waited for the ultrasound appointment but knew that surgery would be at least 4-5 months away – if the condition was repairable. If it wasn’t? I didn’t want to think that far ahead.
I cleared out the living room and dining room so she would be on washable stone floors. Every supply came out – and more. Mops, buckets, washable pee pads, towels, plastic covered beds, sheets, and gates everywhere. I set my office inside and left one covered couch so I could be close by. It was a small world for her, but a happy one. She ruled her domain, and the big dogs allowed it.
She earned many nicknames: Little Miss Puddles, Miss Pee-a-lot, Tinkle Bell, the Terror of Tinkle Town, and more.
She got her bum washed and dried at last four times a day. At night, we put a diaper on her for an hour – careful not to anger the infection we had beat back – and let her run through the rest of the house. She thought that was a magical time.
Our yard has an open pool, so we set up two enclosures for her in the shade. The big dogs joined her. She loved them.
As often as possible, I took her with me to play in the puppy yard at Homeward Bound. She made friends there.
Finally, ultrasound day arrived. We had been so anxiously awaiting it. The news was devastating and unexpected. Yes – she had an ectopic ureter. But she had only one partially functioning kidney and it was dying.
We had to make a quick decision. It was easy. We brought her home to love her. The weeks we thought we would have turned into only a couple of days – and then a rapid night of decline.
The next morning, we set her free.
Someone said she was just not meant to be – a puppy born with so many obstacles. I knew what they meant, but they were wrong. She was meant to be ours for four short weeks of laughter, joy, and tender puppy kisses. Mabel was meant to be loved.
She left an indelible mark on our chewed baseboards, window sills, table legs – and our broken hearts.
We recently took in two little ones…surrendered shortly after they were purchased (for a pretty penny, I might add), because their people decided they either weren’t dog people, or that a puppy was too much work. One approached us about surrender; we were so grateful that they wanted the best for their little boy. The other was talked out of selling the puppy on Craigslist. Thankfully, they agreed.
In both cases, we were just happy to be able to get them to families who understood the commitment that comes with adoption – or purchase – of a dog of any age.
We have an extensive application process and contract, but it got me to wondering what the dogs would put in a canine contract for people if the tables were turned. It might go something like this:
You realize that I am not a shiny penny or an impulsive decision. You have thought through the choice to add someone to your family, and the time and expense that goes with it.
You promise not to treat me like that fancy bike you got that sits in the garage. I am not a toy to be played with for two weeks and forgotten.
You know that neither one of us is perfect. We all come with some baggage. I will try to leave mine behind if you will do the same and we can make a fresh start together.
I promise to be patient with you when you leave things out that could get me in trouble, and you promise to be patient with me when I chew them up. We will both agree that it is better and safer not to do either.
You know that training is a lifelong commitment – and that it is not just for me. You are half the equation. If you do your part, I will do mine.
If you have little humans, you will remember to watch out for them AND for me and you will help to raise us together with respect and kindness.
You realize that I am not a cat. No offense. But I am not happy living a solitary life. I need human contact and friends to be a well-rounded canine.
If you got me as a puppy or youngster, you recognize that I WILL grow up. And you will promise to still love me when I am old and grey or, heaven forbid, sick, injured or disabled – and need you most.
You commit that if – for any reason – you can no longer keep me, that you will not dump me at a shelter, turn me out, or sell me to the highest bidder. You will take as much care in finding me a good, safe and loving home or reputable rescue as I take in being your loyal, trusting companion.
If you agree to the above, by all means…please bring me home. I would like to be yours. All others need not apply. Thank you.
“The earth has its music for those who will listen.” ~ Reginald Holmes, The Magic of Sound.
You would be forgiven for not seeing them right away…so small among the tall summer flowers.
The mean Grackles left as quickly as they appeared…their little fledglings grown. Good riddance! And in their wake, the hummers are back.
Just in time to drink up the best of what the garden has to offer.
It seems that the staples of Penstemon and Salvia are nothing compared to the feast of Agastache and Bee Balm perfectly situated under a favorite tree for cover and rest between acrobats and nectar sips.
Winter became spring and spring became summer since I last wrote. I don’t know where the time has gone.
Leaving my freelance work for something more secure seemed like a wise course during the pandemic – but it turns out to be a decision I regret and am trying to rectify.
I have lost not only my flexibility, but my personal time for the things I love. If the last year and a half has taught us anything, it is that life is too short to not find time for the things we love.
Since I last wrote…
Skye King has been through two successful surgeries to correct his severe hip dysplasia. After five months of fostering, we made him an official member of the family. It took 40+ fosters, but we are finally “foster failures.”
Skye’s proven skills at puppy fostering helped to seal the deal. For the past two months, he has helped us rehab little Aiden who was found by the side of the road with a broken leg at barely four months of age.
Aiden found his forever home yesterday. He was a very hard one to part with. Our home is quiet once again but not for long, I suspect.
Jody’s garden has been completely rehabilitated as well. The raised beds were cleared and planted – now overflowing with fresh vegetables. The weeds were tamed and the orchard has flourished and produced. The fruits are still small but show promise for future years.
The Memorial Garden has bloomed continuously with the change of seasons. First bloom was spectacular…
followed by vibrant summer colors, apricots, overloaded apple trees, and grapes.
Some very annoying Grackles have taken up residence.
I used to admire them for their beautiful iridescent feathers – but no more. They are aggressive bullies and have chased away all the sparrows, robins and hummingbirds to guard their multiple nests. I’ll have to figure out a way to roll out the “unwelcome” mat!
Our new “normal” is dry, hot, and filled with the threat of wildfire. We had our first scare earlier in the month with a grass fire marching right up to our gates.
It is mid-June and we are just shy of our 200th dog of the year. The wave we anticipated has arrived and we are inundated in post-pandemic one-year-olds without training or socialization and seniors in need of medical attention. As people go back to work and the adventures they have missed, it seems that the companions who saw them through are now a burden. We are tracking at a +30% increase for the year.
Maize, meanwhile, was our 10,000th dog. An adorable impulse purchase by a senior couple who had forgotten what it takes to raise a puppy right.
10,000 rescued dogs. A promise made; a promise kept. Jody is smiling from on high.